Hell Notes: Hellboy – Past, Present, and Future 3

By | March 31st, 2014
Posted in Annotations | 6 Comments
Logo by Tim Daniel and Mark Tweedale

Well, our month of Hellboy is drawing to a close, so I should probably finish my long Hellboy Hell Notes saga. If you haven’t read them yet, here are links to Part 1 and Part 2.

Please note, this column contains spoilers for everything up to and including Hellboy in Hell: The Three Gold Whips and Hellboy: The Coffin Man.


The Third Wish

This story kicks off on Hellboy’s last night in Africa, when he came to Mohlomi, a witchdoctor that was supposed to have died two hundred years earlier. Mohlomi claimed to have known for a long time that Hellboy would come to see him, though in the end Hellboy was three days late after he’d pissed of the ghost Kinyamkela by eating from his banana tree.

That night, while Hellboy slept, he was confronted by African spirits, a pride of lions, that told him this was his last night sleeping underneath the skies of Africa, and that they would give him scars to remember. However, as they closed in, a figure very like Mohlomi appeared, only masked and accompanied by the sound of a ringing bell.

Hellboy woke the next morning in a countryside very different from the one he’d fallen asleep in. Mohlomi came to him and informed him he was at the crossroads of his life and gave him a little bell with a face on it just like the mask of the figure Hellboy has seen in his dreams.

The pair went down the water’s edge where the ocean was calling to Hellboy… and then a great wave rose up and claimed him. He was immediately set upon by three mermaids that drove a nail into his head. In the struggle, Mohlomi’s bell was lost.

The three mermaids brought Hellboy to the lair of the sea witch, the Bog Roosh. She bound him in chains wrought from the bones of Emile Bertrand, a werewolf Hellboy had killed years ago. These chains could not be broken, and tightened when Hellboy struggled. Such was the power of the dead werewolf over his murderer.

The Bog Roosh claimed to see further than any other witch and she had had a vision of Hellboy dead and the Right Hand of Doom cut from his arm, then the power of the hand was used to release the Ogdru Jahad and lay the world to waste. This vision haunted her so that she decided to set her will against the secret workings of the universe, to utterly unmake Hellboy and save the world. She planned to cut Hellboy to pieces and send them to the witches at the four corners of the globe, to send his left eye to the Baba Yaga in payment for the one he had shot out, to send his skin to Hecate, and to eat his heart and drink his blood herself. As for the Right Hand of Doom, she wanted to feed it to the oldest living creature, a whale in the far depths of the oceans. When the whale was to die, its corpse would drop into the Pit of Urr, finally lifting Hellboy’s burden from the world.

From the etherworld, Sir Edward Grey, Dagda, and a host of fairy folk watched Hellboy’s plight. Dagda wished he could help Hellboy, but he was beyond the reach of Heaven or Earth. This enraged Gruagach the changeling. His encounter with Hellboy in the 1950s had left him burned by iron and trapped in the shrunken body of Grom the war pig. He had seen the fairies fading from the world, and thought the Bog Roosh had the right idea. After all, when the world ended, they would too. The new world after Ragna Rok would have no place for them.

Meanwhile, one of the mermaids that had captured Hellboy had seen the spirit of her father. He had scolded her for condemning someone to the clutches of the Bog Roosh when they had done her no wrong. Ashamed of what she had done, the mermaid returned to atone for the wrong she had done to Hellboy and freed him from his chains. Once free, Hellboy went into a murderous rage, turning on all the creatures that served the Bog Roosh, hacking them to bits.

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After the carnage, he uncovered hordes of stone jars in piles on the floor. This was the Treasure Chamber of the Bog Roosh where she kept the souls of people that had been claimed by the sea. It was from them that she drew all her power.

Unknown to Hellboy, the Bog Roosh watched him from the shadows. Knowing she didn’t have the power to defeat him and not wishing to see her visions come true, she flung herself onto Hellboy’s blade, killing herself. With the Bog Roosh dead, the jars of the chamber opened, and the souls, in the form of seabirds, flew up out of the ocean and away into the sky.

I consider this one of the most beautiful moments in the Hellboy comics.

But there must always be a Bog Roosh, and that curse fell upon the mermaid that had saved Hellboy. She would never be able to leave the Bog Roosh’s home, but with her new powers she was at least able to set Hellboy free, pulling the nail from his head, which could only be removed by the Bog Roosh.

The Island

Hellboy drifted around the ocean for over two years before he washed up on the shore of a mysterious island off the coast of Portugal. That evening he found shelter in the wreck of an old ship with three other men. He told them stories and drank and they all sang together until Hellboy was roused by a noise from outside. When he looked back at his companions, he saw only the corpses of sailors long dead.

Hellboy went to look outside, grabbing a bottle of rum as he left. Waiting outside was Hecate. She had come to thank him for killing the Bog Roosh who had come close to taking Hellboy from her. She reminded him they were the agents of change, and they would be bound together until the end of the world. She warned him of the suffering to come, which he could end if he joined with her.

Of course, Hellboy turned her down.

On further explorations of the island Hellboy found a castle with golden blood running down from its steps. He ignored his better judgement and decided to check it out. To say this did not go well is a bit of an understatement. His disturbing the pool of blood woke up Urgo-Hem and got him killed.

Yeah, so Hellboy's dead now.

Hellboy found himself standing beside Mohlomi in an unearthly landscape. Mohlomi simply asked him if he was ready for it to be over. “Not yet,” replied Hellboy. Then Mohlomi returned to Hellboy the bell he had lost in the ocean.

Hellboy awoke, all his blood drained from his body, barely able to move. Standing over him was a man, an Ogdru priest, red as blood. He claimed that once there had been three tablets of gold on which the true history of the world had been written. These tablets were in the Aztec city, Tenochititlán, until Hernán Cortéz conquered the city in 1521. When he had been alive, the Ogdru priest had learned the language of the first race of man, and memorised the history that was written on them. When the three tablets were later destroyed, the priest became a vessel, the living history of the true history of the world, and was taken by the Spanish Inquisition and tortured.

He was later rescued and brought to the mysterious island and kept in the castle there, but eventually the Inquisition found him again. They murdered him, but from his wounds issued golden blood, and just as Sadu-Hem had been reborn from the blood of his worshippers in the Hyperborean capital of Gorinium, Urgo-Hem was reborn from the Ogdru priest’s.

And when Hellboy had been killed, the priest was reborn from Hellboy’s blood, his new body knitted from it. He stood before Hellboy and claimed he loved humanity so much he would rather see them slaughtered than to suffer through the end of the world. He spoke of the power of Hellboy’s right hand, and told him the truth of its origins. All the while, Hellboy listened, clutching Mohlomi’s bell tightly, the wound in his chest drew closed and the colour returned to his skin. When he finally had enough strength, he decided to put an end to the Ogdru priest’s ranting.

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But he couldn’t hurt the priest while he was woven from Hellboy’s blood. The priest dismissed him as a mere nuisance and left him to fight Urgo-Hem. Dumb move. Urgo-Hem was not yet a fully formed Ogdru Hem. It had only drawn its power from the blood of the murdered Ogdru priest and the Spanish Inquisition on the island. And while it was undoubtedly a force to be reckoned with, it could be killed.

With Urgo-Hem gone, the Ogdru priest was returned to death and left to answer to the ghosts of the Inquisition. Afterwards Hellboy found a tiny boat and set sail for England.

This story was a major turning point for Hellboy, and after it he had a better understanding of himself than ever before. But that understanding was not something he wanted.

Darkness Calls

For a long time whenever Hellboy had been faced with an uncomfortable truth, he tended to deal with it a certain way…

However, now he knew the truth more clearly than he ever had before, and he couldn’t tell the thoughts in his head to shut up, so he resorted to silencing them with alcohol. Hellboy’s drinking with the dead in The Island was not an isolated incident. When Hellboy arrived in England in his little boat, he made his home in the house of Harry Middleton, an old friend of he and Professor Bruttenholm. Actually, I should say the former house of Harry Middleton. Harry had died back in 1984. Both Hellboy and the Professor had been to his funeral.

For a long while, Hellboy spent his days playing cards and drinking with ghosts until he was stirred from his reverie by a call; a voice he wasn’t even conscious of. Hellboy had no way of knowing it, but the witches of England had collected the horns he had broken off in the final pages of Wake the Devil. One they kept, the other they had carved into figure of Hellboy that they whispered to.

Hellboy was drawn outside, followed by dozens of cats, into a wood where he met three people on the road. These three told Hellboy tales of Mary, Margaret, and Amelia, three women murdered by the witchfinder, Henry Hood. They came to the place where the women were buried and Hellboy watched, unable to move, as they dug up the three witches and brought them back to life.

At once they were set upon by the cursed remains of Henry Hood, shouting that he shall not allow a witch to live, and he struck out at Hellboy, declaring that there was witch’s blood in him. The three newly resurrected witches grabbed Hellboy, their “cousin,” and swept him up away into the night sky, leaving Henry Hood behind.

The night was full of witches and their familiars, all flying to the Witch’s Sabbath at Leeds, a gathering like none seen before in the history of the world, and all for Hellboy. He was brought to an abandoned church full of witches, where they told him how their queen, Hecate, triple goddess, had been robbed of her power and bricked up in a wall until the end of the world. The person responsible for this was Igor Bromhead, the same man that had nearly killed Hellboy in Box Full of Evil when he unleashed the demon Ualac on him.

Bromhead had tried to make himself king of the witches, and in the process called down powers beyond his control, which had led to his ruin. So the witches had summoned Hellboy, son of the witch, Sarah Hughes, and of the demon, Azzael, once the lord over the witches of Lancashire, Abbotsbury, East Bromwich, Faversham, and Berkswell. As the most worthy to rule, they offered him kingship over the witches, but Hellboy turned them down.

Perhaps it was because they had reminded him of so many things about himself that he’d been drinking to ignore, but Hellboy was fierce in his refusal. While the witches would have let him leave and have peace between them, Hellboy told them to finish their gathering or he would start shooting them and burn down their church. The witches warned him to be careful or he would incite war among them, but Hellboy didn’t care. Here again we see Hellboy so very willing to kill creatures that remind him of what he is.

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In desperation, the witches gave Hellboy to the Baba Yaga to deal with. When Hellboy stepped outside of the church, he found himself in the Thrice-Nine Lands in the Thrice Tenth Kingdom, the Baba Yaga’s mythical Russia where she had lived since she faded from the world after Hellboy shot out her left eye. And she was still pissed about that, so she sent an army of dead warriors after Hellboy to claim his left eye as her own.

Hellboy fled into a wood from which wolves emerged and attacked the army of his heels. The wolves were sent by the Leshii, a forest spirit that delighted in spiting the Baba Yaga. He allowed Hellboy to stay one night in his wood, and while Hellboy slept he called upon the god Perun, father of the world, to aid him in keeping the Baba Yaga’s armies from breaching his territory.

By morning, the Baba Yaga’s army had been destroyed, so the Baba Yaga went to Perun, god of storms, father of the world, and killed him for interfering. Then she set Koshchei the Deathless after Hellboy. Koshchei was a great warrior whose soul was hidden in an egg, inside a duck, inside a rabbit, inside a goat… and the goat was kept by the Baba Yaga, binding him to serve her.

It didn’t take long for Koshchei to find Hellboy. Koshchei had been made to do many horrible things in his deathless life, but if was able to at least bring the Baba Yaga Hellboy’s eye, then he would finally be allowed to die, so he fought holding nothing back. However, Hellboy was aided by a little girl, Vasilisa, bearing a stolen skull lantern from the Baba Yaga’s house.

A thousand years ago Koshchei had been commanded by the Baba Yaga to kill Vasilisa, which he had done, something he deeply regretted and had been cursed to repeat over and over again ever since. Though it was not really Vasilisa he was killing, but rather her doll, the protective spirit of Vasilisa’s dead mother. And so, when Vasilisa showed Hellboy the way back to the world, Koshchei repeated his crime yet again.

This threw Hellboy into a rage. Despite Koshchei’s deathlessness, and his prowess as a warrior, Hellboy was beating him, and Koshchei was becoming more and more overwhelmed by his guilt from killing Vasilisa. The Baba Yaga watched all this from her seat on the roots of the world tree, Yggdrasil, and feared she would lose Hellboy. She called for the goat which contained Koshchei’s soul, and she poured her power into it.

Yet Hellboy still fought, while Koshchei begged him to die so that he could know death himself. The Baba Yaga emptied everything she had in Koshchei, to the point that all her lanterns around her chicken-leg house went out. When at last her power was finally gone, the goat ran away, and the Baba Yaga finally understood that the eye she wanted could not be taken. It had to be given.

When Hellboy returned to the world, he sought out Igor Bromhead in Italy. Igor had transformed himself into a monster in constant pain and begged for his death. Hellboy gave it to him, and in his last moments, as Bromhead’s soul was pulled away to Hell, he said he saw Hellboy in Hell, seated on a dragon at the head of an army.

The Wild Hunt

Hellboy stayed in Italy for several months, again drinking in the company of ghosts. This time it was the Capobianco sisters, women Hellboy had helped out twenty years prior.

In a dream Hellboy visited the funeral of the murdered Dagda, last king of the Tuatha Dé Danann. With his death, the last of his people would pass in the shadows beneath the world. Also at the funeral Hellboy saw a familiar face, though he hadn’t seen it in over forty years, that of Alice Monaghan.

When he woke, he was given a letter by the Capobianco sisters from the Osiris Club, the people that had sent him to fight Saint Leonard’s Worm in the 1954. Hellboy met with them in England, noting they hadn’t aged a day since last he’d seen them. The Osiris Club wanted Hellboy to partake in the Wild Hunt, which was organised to hunt giants that had risen from their graves (there have been no living giants known to humanity since 1402). In the past gangs of giants had swelled to groups as big as four, but on this occasion their number was six, and the rising of giants had become more frequent.

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Yeah, there's a lot we don't know about Hellboy's adoptive father.

Hellboy rode out with the Wild Hunt, but when it appeared they were nearly upon the giants, the Wild Hunt attacked Hellboy instead, declaring that they knew who he was, and that the devil would never sit on the throne of England.

While unconscious, Hellboy had a vision. He was surrounded by knights, standing still and covered with dust and cobwebs. In the centre of the room was a skeleton in chainmail with a crown upon its head, and empty scabbard between its knees, and the banner of a red dragon upon its breast.

Hellboy woke up to find a small bird talking to him. It told him that the members of the Wild Hunt were dead, killed by a gang of giants that were still nearby. Thanks to a gift from the bird’s mistress, Hellboy was invisible, and was able to sneak away unnoticed… except Hellboy didn’t want to slip by unnoticed. With the bird whispering protests at his side, Hellboy moved towards the giants, walking amongst them. When they caught his scent, Hellboy should have left, but instead…

Taking a broken shard of a giant’s sword, Hellboy threw himself into battle, killing each and every one of them, hacking them into bits. He crouched atop their corpses, his horns grown back, lost in his own of blood and fire, until he was stirred back to himself, shocked at what had he had done.

I can't even begin to do this scene justice here. There's so much more to it than this.

Afterwards he followed the bird and came to the home of Alice Monaghan, the woman he had saved as an infant in 1959, and had seen at Dagda’s funeral. She told Hellboy how she had grown up talking to fairies and had spent a great deal of her time with them. Like Hellboy, she couldn’t tell the difference between the realm of the fairies and dreams anymore.

Alice took Hellboy to a hilltop to meet Queen Mab. She told Hellboy that Graugach the changeling had long nursed a grudge against Hellboy, and in time it came to fester as a hatred of all humankind. When Hellboy had turned down being king of the witches, Graugach had come to them, suggesting Nimue as their new queen.

Nimue was the witch that had charmed Merlin, stolen his secrets, and used them against him. She heard the voices of all things, but one voice she heard loudest of all, that of the soul-destroying Ogdru Jahad. The voice drove her mad, and in fear the witches turned against her, cutting her into pieces and locking her in a box that was buried in a secret place.

In desperation, the witches agreed to Graugach’s suggestion so that they might build and army and fight back against the world of humanity. When Nimue returned, she was not satisfied to simply be the queen of the witches; she named herself the Queen of Blood, a goddess of war, bent on spilling all blood.

Queen Mab did not blame Hellboy for all that had happened, but she also made it clear he was sent to the Earth to destroy the world. There was a creature inside of Hellboy, the one he had seen the Ogdru priest become in The Island, and though he had been ignoring it and drinking with ghosts, it was inescapable. If Hellboy continued to ignore it, it would grow and eventually it would consume him. Mab warned him that it had already begun, and with the memory of the slaughtered giants still fresh in his mind, Hellboy could not deny the truth of it. She gave him one hope to escape his fate, but warned him that either way he was bound to wear a crown.

When Mab left, Hellboy found a creature offering his services, calling himself Edmund, Duke of Gloucester. Hellboy and Alice followed “Edmund” as he led them out of their world and into the fairy realm. As they walked, Edmund asked Hellboy how Black Annis was, knowing that Hellboy had killed her in 1962. Hellboy pointed out she was a cannibal hag that ate children and hung their skins on an oak tree, but Edmund lamented the spilling of her golden blood… and then Black Annis’s children ambushed them.

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During the attack, Alice was struck by a poisoned elf shot, and Edmund gleefully proclaimed she was dead. He was cut short in his celebrations by the arrival of three white birds. They killed Edmund, and Black Annis’s children fled. The birds changed into three women in white. They told Hellboy their lady could save Alice, but first he had to help their lady.

For five hundred years her castle had been under siege by demons under the command of Eligos. They had come to collect payment for powers that had been granted by Eligos’s master in Hell.

Knowing every moment counted, Hellboy hastily agreed to help and threw himself into battle with Eligos. However, Eligos was far too strong for Hellboy. He was utterly powerless against him. So Hellboy made a deal with one of the minion demons, that on the day Hellboy would come into his Kingdom in Hell, he would remember the demon. In return, the demon pointed out Eligos’s ring, of the Order of the Fly, which connected him to his powers in Hell. Once the ring was broken, Hellboy easily defeated him.

Inside the castle, Alice was healed, and their mysterious host was revealed: Morgan le Fay, half-sister of King Arthur Pendragon. She had orchestrated the attack by Black Annis’s children so that Hellboy would be forced to come to her. While they talked, she offered Hellboy wine, but he turned it down. No longer would he bury his head in the sand.

Morgan le Fay spoke of her son, Mordred, who by Morgan’s trickery had been born King Arthur’s son, and how he had tried to steal his father’s throne. The two met in the Battle of Camlan where they killed each other, and it was believed this was where the line of Pendragon ended. But Mordred had three sons, bastards born to the witch Kathryn of Gilfach. King Arthur’s Knights had tracked down these boys and put them to death.

But there was also a daughter, and the Knights never found her. And she had a daughter of her own. This way the line of Pendragon continued hidden behind other names, an unbroken line of witches leading to the witch Sarah Hughes. This witch had three children. The eldest, a monk and a nun, had both died, but the youngest still lived, the son of Azzael , conceived on Walpurgis Night, 1574, born from flame in the house of his father in Hell, 1617, and delivered to Earth on December 23rd, 1944. Hellboy, the first male descendant of Mordred, son of Arthur Pendragon, rightful king of Britain.

Morgan le Fay led Hellboy to a small pond with a stone in its centre. Sticking out from the stone was the sword Excalibur. Morgan le Fay told Hellboy he could draw that sword and the noble dead of Britain would rise. He would have an army to fight against the Queen of Blood. And it was true, Hellboy had always felt it more natural to hold a sword than a gun.

Yeah, Hellboy's totally cool with this King Arthur stuff.
But Hellboy remembered what had happened to him when he had picked up the sword shard and slain the giants, and he feared what would happen if he had a sword like Excalibur. He went to visit the recovering Alice, and by her bed stood little Vasilisa, warning Hellboy to be careful, then she was gone. Hellboy sat by Alice until she stirred from slumber. He told her how he hadn’t drawn Excalibur from the stone.

Hellboy didn’t say why, but Alice knew there was something worrying him, so she told him about a dream she had had, standing in a cave, surrounded by knights covered with dust and cobwebs. In the centre of the room, in a shaft of light, stood King Arthur in chainmail and the banner of the red dragon upon his breast. He told her that her life was bound to his sword and that she would be the first to see the new king with his crown.

Later that evening Hellboy was visited by his uncle, Astaroth. He told Hellboy that one day he would go to Pandemonium, the capital of Hell, and he would find Satan and kill him while he slept. Then he would go up into the city and throw down all the generals and princes, and claim the crown waiting for him there. Hellboy would take up his father’s sword and give life to the Great Army of Hell, the only thing that can break down the walls of Hell. Hellboy would free those enslaved in Hell and make a paradise for them on Earth.

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Hellboy fled from Astaroth, and fought with a vision of himself clad in his father’s armour and wielding his father’s sword. The vision demanded he take up the sword, and that the rest would follow in its own time. As they fought, fire flooded out from them, filling the halls of Morgan le Fay’s castle. Then the vision passed, and Hellboy stood alone in the charred hall.

He returned to Alice’s room where he found her burned skeleton. Again Vasilisa appeared by Alice’s bedside. She asked him why he hadn’t taken up Excalibur, and Hellboy told her how he was afraid of what he had become swinging a broken sword shard, and with Excalibur it would be so much worse.

This is one of my favourite moments in the series. I love Vasilisa's speech.

In the darkness beyond Alice’s bedside, the pool appeared before Hellboy with Excalibur in its stone. Across various realms, Queen Mab, Sir Edward Grey, Mohlomi, the Baba Yaga, the witches of Britain, and others all watched as Hellboy stepped forward and drew the sword from the stone.

Then it was morning and Hellboy stood on the hill where he had spoken to Queen Mab. In his left hand he held Excalibur, and by his side, alive and well, was Alice (although her memory was a little patchy). And so the pair of them set off to wake the noble dead of Britain, and wondering how the hell they were supposed to do it.

The Storm and the Fury

The noble dead of Britain were doing a pretty good job of waking all on their own though. All over the country, knights were disappearing from their graves. But where were they going to? Hellboy and Alice had no idea where to find them.

Meanwhile, the Queen of Blood had been busy. She had found and slain Mab, the last queen of the Tuatha Dé Danaan, the fairies of Ireland. With Mab’s golden blood she painted a hedgehog and made him into a warrior to kill Hellboy. And the hedgehog very nearly succeeded, for Hellboy charged into battle without his sword. But Alice threw Excalibur to him, and the battle was turned. A wound that once would have been mortal was easily dismissed, and the hedgehog warrior was cut down swiftly.

Normally after a wound like this Hellboy would be hanging out Mohlomi.

When Hellboy went to pick up his sword, thrown aside during his killing strike, he and Alice found a public house that hadn’t been there before, its sign bearing the image of a grail. The pair took shelter inside as the sky broke into pouring rain. Alice relaxed with some beers, while Hellboy had a cup of tea (still not drinking), and outside in the rain the noble dead of Britain gathered… and waited.

But Hellboy couldn’t lead them. Though he believed everything he’d been told about the Queen of Blood and the war that she was bringing, he didn’t believe becoming the King of Britain and leading an army was right for him. He felt he needed to trust his instincts and find another way to deal with the problem. Alice begged him to at least take Excalibur, but he refused. He thought it was a part of everything that felt wrong about the way things were playing out. Alice believed he was making a mistake. He held her tight and told her when this was over, he was going back to the Bureau. He kissed her goodbye and strode out of the pub, past the waiting nobles.

Out in the storm he found Gruagach, hanging from a tree after his failed attempt at suicide. He begged Hellboy for forgiveness and to kill him, but even after Hellboy unloaded the last of his bullets into him, Gruagach still lived, cursed to see the end of the world he had set in motion.

This means “No.”
Hellboy then came across a homeless man with a “the end is nigh” sign, though Hellboy recognised him at once as Astaroth. Hellboy’s uncle showed him the army that lay between him and the Queen of Blood, an army that he said not even the noble dead of Britain could defeat. But there was another army Hellboy could command. He taunted Hellboy, telling him how he could wake that army, set them loose on the field of battle, then try to send them back to Hell. Hellboy’s reply was a rather direct one.

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When Astaroth was gone, Hellboy was approached by one more person, the Baba Yaga. She offered Hellboy a way past Nimue’s army if he would pay the debt he owed her. She wanted two eyes to see the end. Hellboy agreed.

Wrapped in the Baba Yaga’s cloak, Hellboy came to the foot of Nimue’s fortress. He was witnessed there by three witches, who mistook him first for Odin with his one eye, and then for Thor with his stone hammer. Hellboy climbed the stairs of the fortress, fighting the myriad creatures that barred his way, though making a point not to pick up any swords, making do with an axe instead.

But when he got to the top, it was not Nimue that was waiting for him. All those years ago, when Rasputin had used Liz to shake the Ogdru Jahad in its prison, he had succeeded in creating a crack. It was not enough for them to break free, but it was enough for them to channel a small part of themselves into Nimue, changing her into a black dragon.

And so Hellboy, the Champion of Man, battled the Dragon, while below, on the plains of Vigrid, the noble dead of Britain fought against the Queen of Blood’s army with War riding at its head, followed by Pestilence and Famine, and lastly, Death.

It was not a fight Hellboy could win on his own. He was broken, and beaten, and ready to die when he was visited one last time by Vasilisa nursing a raven in her arms. She asked if he was ready, and passed the raven (the part of Nimue that was still human and hated what she had become) to Hellboy. As he reached out his hand, the raven became a sword, and with it he struck back against the Dragon, until at last the blade found its mark and the Dragon lay defeated.

Alice found Hellboy at the top of the tower, the last time she would lay eyes on him, for as he turned to face her, the spirit of Nimue manifested. She reached into Hellboy’s chest and tore out his heart, taking it with her as she was dragged down into Hell.


You’d think that would be the end of the story, wouldn’t you? But this being a Mike Mignola story, when a character dies they simply become more interesting.

Hellboy found himself in the darkness of the Abyss, the outer edge of Hell. There he found a robed and masked man, Sir Edward Grey, and Eligos, the demon he had defeated at the gates of Morgan le Fay’s castle. Eligos lost everything after Hellboy defeated him and he wanted revenge, but Sir Edward Grey would not let him have it. He intervened, casting Hellboy out until Eligos was dealt with.

In the meantime Hellboy wandered until he found a spirit that showed him to Pandemonium, the capital of Hell, abandoned and empty. All the demons had fled upon hearing of Hellboy’s return. In the Citadel of the Fly, once the beating heart of the city, Hellboy found his father’s throne, and waiting for him on it, the Crown of the Apocalypse, his father’s broken sword, and his ring of office.

Hellboy rejected them, so the spirit led him deeper into Pandemonium, to stairs winding their way down into Satan’s chambers, where he had been sleeping for nearly two thousand years. The spirit suggested to Hellboy how easy it would be to kill him in his sleep, and offered Hellboy a knife.

Then Hellboy was visited by a second spirit. He was taken to the Cocytus river, full of the common damned. There he saw the Fisher of Souls, one of the first Watchers that had made the Ogdru Jahad. It was by his strength that the city of Pandemonium was build, and since then he had worked tirelessly, taking the souls from the river and beating them with hammer upon anvil, fashioning them into the Great Army of Hell, Hellboy’s army.

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At this point Hellboy was getting pretty pissed off, as he often does when people start talking about all the doom and horror he is destined to loose, but the spirit took him to one more place, the home of Azzael, the house where Hellboy was born. Ignoring Hellboy’s protests, the spirit showed him a vision of his own birth, and of Azzael cutting off his hand and fixing the Right Hand of Doom in its place.

When the vision passed, the spirit was gone, and waiting for him in the shadows was Astaroth. He showed Hellboy his father, stripped of his powers and imprisoned alive for what he had created. Hellboy had never wanted to be what his father had made him, but Astaroth had others that did. Hellboy’s older half-brothers, Gamon and Lusk, both of noble birth were ready to kill their younger sibling for his right hand, and Astaroth was not going to stop them. He had grown impatient with Hellboy, and he had far more control over his other nephews. It is curious that Astaroth had no interest in taking the hand for himself. He would have rather controlled the one that bore it.

However, before Gamon or Lusk could take the hand, the Leviathan consumed them and Astaroth, leaving Hellboy alone and somewhat bewildered. As he stood there, he was approached by a minion demon that asked if he remembered him. He was the same demon that had told Hellboy how to cut off Eligos from his powers in Hell, and he had come for payment. With the Pandemonium empty, he wanted the city for himself and his kind. Hellboy granted him this, warning him to watch out for the guy in the basement.

But the demon told Hellboy that Satan was dead. Someone had gone down into his chamber while he slept and cut his throat.

This realisation set Hellboy adrift in the Abyss, and he might have been lost had not Sir Edward Grey intervened again and saved him. Grey warned him, he was unlikely to be able to do this again. When Hellboy expressed to Grey his concern that he had no memory of killing Satan, Sir Edward replied simply that it was likely he didn’t want to remember, and that perhaps this was for the best. He pointed out to Hellboy that for the first time in his life, he was truly free, and though he still had his stone hand, there was no one left in Hell that wanted it.

So Hellboy departed to find a new life for himself in Hell. On his wandering, he found Jules Dulot. In life, Dulot and two of his friends had made a deal with a devil for gold, but now his life was coming to an end and the devil would be coming back to collect his soul as payment unless he could discover what meal was waiting for him in Hell. Hellboy agreed to help him, and so the two set off to find the devil’s grandmother. While in a graveyard, Dulot met two soldiers he had known and lost in a war. The two guided him to the grandmother’s house, and there Hellboy and Dulot overheard her talking to her grandson.

Not only did they learn what meal was awaiting Dulot, but they heard how the princes and dukes and earls and knights of Hell had fled Pandemonium with their armies. But when they came to the mountains, their armies turned on them, killing them and devouring their remains. Now Hell was truly left to the demon slaves.

After Hellboy had seen Dulot safely on his way to meet the devil to win back his soul, Dulot’s two dead soldier friends asked if they could join Hellboy for a while.

That’s right, Hellboy’s drinking again because finally he’s not hiding from anything anymore. He is free, and what he does next will be up to him…


…except that it’s not. Not really. Sir Edward Grey kinda lied to him so that Hellboy could at least feel free for a time, but the truth is there is still much in store for him. Sir Edward knows of at least three things that must be done, one of which he will do himself, something he agreed to do when he hauled Hellboy out of the Abyss.

Continued below

In an interview leading up to Hellboy Day, Mike Mignola spoke to Pop Culture Hound about Hellboy’s future:

What I really want to do with Hellboy… I realise I have a certain number of things he’s got to do. And for years now I’ve had this laundry list; he’s gotta take care of this, he’s gotta take care of that, he’s gotta show up here to do this; and I’d like to get through that in the next five years.

In Hellboy in Hell I was supposed to take care of everything I wanted to take care of in the first couple of issues and then turn that book into a book where Hellboy just wandered around different neighbourhoods of Hell … But what happened in those first couple of issues of Hellboy in Hell, things happened that kind of started having certain repercussions, which has turned into a big story. So what I’m looking at now is at least twenty issues which have to resolve this big Hellboy story. it doesn’t mean I’m done with Hellboy, it just means he will have done what he needed to do, and now I can kind of retire him. Just let him roam around and have a good time…. in Hell.

Five years is a big canvas for these events to unfold in. After all B.P.R.D. Hell on Earth can’t go on forever. Look how much material we’re already accumulated in less than four years of this story. In another five years time, it will almost certainly be over. Plague of Frogs ran for twelve trades, and though Hell on Earth is going to be a longer story cycle, it’s already at nine trades-worth of material. By Hellboy’s 25th anniversary, the Earth may be gone, and the Hellboy universe will be a very different place than it is today.

The trades of B.P.R.D. Hell on Earth from mid 2011 to the end of 2014, less than four years of material.

There have been many prophecies in the Hellboy series, but when they play out, they very rarely happen the way it was expected. Mignola plays with our assumptions, and it’s a game I rather enjoy.

It is still said that Hellboy will take up his father’s sword, wake up his sleeping army of the damned, and break down the walls of Hell. Indeed, Igor Bromhead even saw Hellboy at the head of his army on the back of a dragon as he died and went to Hell. Perhaps one day we shall see the damned with Bromhead witnessing this event in the background. In fact, given the way he lived his life, he may even be among the ranks of the common damned, beaten by the Fisher of Souls into a warrior.

Context is everything, and while at the moment it seems Hellboy would never do such things, we don’t know what motivation is driving him, and what this army is truly going up against. And we’re still yet to see Hellboy have to make the better of two bad choices. So far he’s always found a way out, but I don’t think this will always be the case.

And then there’s Liz’s vision from B.P.R.D.: King of Fear. Hellboy and Hecate together at the end of the world, and just as Astaroth told him as a child, he sets the world on fire with a word.

“Liz... Do it.”

And then…? Well, we’ve been teased in various images, not visions of the future, but more illustrations a certain character’s perception of the future. They are not literal. They are maybes.

In the end Hecate and Hellboy will be together, and the Ogdru Jahad will be loose. In these illustrations of the future, Hellboy’s Right Hand has often been taken, cut off, and used by another. And though he does die, this does not necessarily mean Hellboy dies right at that moment. The hand must be struck off while Hellboy lives, so maybe that is just one step on his journey and not so close to the end as we might think. Maybe we’ll have a one-eyed, one-armed Hellboy for a while.

Continued below

And then there’s those that are tied in with his fate. Sir Edward did this despite repeated warnings. He will be damned and suffer as few men have ever suffered, and he will learn to do evil to accomplish good. I wonder if this is the task he is sparing Hellboy, or if this is a burden they shall both endure together. Or maybe it has nothing to do with Hellboy. We shall see.

Then there is Hecate. She will be with Hellboy at the end of the world. They will either live to see the new world or die as the old world ends. Whichever it is, they will do it together. But what is it that binds these two? They share several startling similarities. Both have their Hellish aspects, that much is clear, but they also have human aspects as well. Hellboy is only half demon, his other half bears the lineage of King Arthur. And Hecate’s body is that of the Nazi Ilsa Haupstein, who despite being an utterly terrible person, was still a human being. Then there’s the Heavenly aspects. Hellboy’s hand is all that remains of the Watcher, Anum, who created the Ogdru Jahad. It is essentially the hand of an angel. But what happened to the rest of Anum? In The Island it was said Anum was torn to pieces by the other Watchers, and those pieces were consumed. It is not said who consumed these pieces, only that the Watchers witnessed it, but the text was accompanied by an image of a mouth belonging to a statue of the Black Goddess. And the Black Goddess is Black Heccata, Hecate. Are we being told she feasted on Anum’s remains?

Both Hellboy and Hecate are Heaven, Hell, and Earth combined. It has been pointed out numerous times since Wake the Devil. Why this is important, I can only guess, but it is clearly very significant.

But the most baffling bit about the end of the world, is from Liz’s vision in B.P.R.D.: King of Fear. Not all that stuff on the mountain top with Hecate (although that still raises a lot of questions), but rather a single photograph found in the ruins. Hellboy, somehow alive (although we can’t see his eyes, he may be missing one…) next to B.P.R.D. troops. I’m throwing my arms up in the air with this one. I’ve no idea what this one means or if it will even come to pass (though I think it’d feel like a bit of a cop-out if it didn’t). Best explanation I have for this, (prepare to grimace at my flimsy theory) is that Hellboy is able to borrow Johann’s ectoplasm for a while. After all, Johann was not in any of these future pictures.

Yeah, it’s pretty weak as far as theories go, I know. but I guess we’ll get the answer before the end. Because it is going to end one day. This thing isn’t going to keep on spinning forever. It’s going somewhere. Scott Allie spoke a little about it in his interview with 13th Dimension: “I don’t think anyone has ever built or managed anything like what Mike’s done with these books. And there’ll come a day when we end it, and then we’ll have really done something unprecedented.”

Hellboy in Hell #6: The Death Card
But you know, there’s more to Hellboy than the end of the world. Hellboy’s adventures kicked off in 1994 and since then there have been just as many stories set in the present as there have been in the past, and that’s not going to change any time soon. Only last year we got to pull back the veil on The Midnight Circus, a story which introduced Hellboy’s sister Gamori, who he’ll no doubt see again in Hell. And only a few months ago we had Hellboy Gets Married in which Hellboy was bound to a monstrous woman in life and death. And now that he’s dead, I’m sure he’s going to see her again. Hellboy’s already bumped into Eligos in Hell, but he spent something like fifty years hunting his own kind, and I’m betting more than a few of them wound up in Hell. More than ever Hellboy’s past is going to start catching up with him. In fact, I’m reasonably certain from the cover and title that Hellboy in Hell #6: The Death Card (which comes out in May) will see Hellboy bumping into the Vampire of Prague, whom he killed in 1982. Maybe we’ll learn more about Hellboy’s under-reported vampire history. Maybe we’ll finally gets some hints at what happened in Budapest, 1975, or in Romania in 1969.

Continued below

The thing is there’s so much history to explore. I hope you’ve been enjoying Hellboy’s drunken tales from Mexico, because there’s more to come. Remember after Hellboy was killed for the first time on that island off the coast of Portugal, and afterwards he hoped on a little boat to England? Do you remember this story?

Neither do I, because we never got told that story, but it was still hinted at in The Storm. And some day, we might get that ghost ship story.

Before that Hellboy spent a bunch of time in Africa. In fact, before The Third Wish came together, there was originally supposed to be a miniseries there. Maybe some day we’ll explore that. Or even explore his previous visit to Africa in 1947 as a child, lost on the Serengeti.

B.P.R.D. #120
And then there’s China, 1979, one of Abe Sapien’s first (if not his very first) missions before he officially became an agent. China was Hellboy’s biggest screw up and it cost the lives of fellow agents. Such a character defining moment is something I really hope we get to see some day. And it may not even be in the pages of Hellboy. It could just as easily be an Abe Sapien story. Hellboy can be explored from vantage points outside his own series. In fact, in June we’ll be doing just that with a two-issue B.P.R.D. arc featuring flashbacks to Hellboy in 1949.

We have had twenty years of Hellboy, and yet there’s still such a rich history to explore. And that’s really saying something considering it’s taken me three long articles to sum up his history, all the while glossing over things and truncating explanations along the way to keep the length down. Hell, do you know how much more history I could have gone into between 1956 and 1994? I actually skipped a majority of the stories from that era just to save space.

So where does Hellboy go from here? Wherever the hell Mike Mignola wants. It’s a big universe, and even after twenty years it’s still bustling with stories, all begging to be told.

Whew! This was exhausting! I hope you’ve enjoyed 31 Days of Hellboy. Again, I gotta thank Daniel Chabon for his help on this column. Without him, these articles would be accompanied by very grainy, low-res pictures. He keeps this thing looking professional.

Hell Notes will return in June, because I need to recover from doing so many mammoth articles back to back since December. In the meantime, feel free to use the comments to talk about Hellboy’s future. Honestly, there’s so much there, I’m bound to have overlooked stuff, and I’m sure you guys guys have some very compelling theories of your own.

//TAGS | 20 Years of Hellboy | Hell Notes | Mignolaversity

Mark Tweedale

Mark writes Haunted Trails, The Harrow County Observer, The Damned Speakeasy, and a bunch of stuff for Mignolaversity. An animator and an eternal Tintin fan, he spends his free time reading comics, listening to film scores, watching far too many video essays, and consuming the finest dark chocolates. You can find him on Twitter @MarkTweedale.


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